Worst-Case Wednesday: How To Survive in a Life Raft

Posted by Jade Gilmartin

Hopefully it will not be with a Bengal Tiger, which would make the ordeal even more difficult, but if you want to know how to survive in a life raft, just in case, here is the best way, taken from Worse Case Scenario Almanac: Great Outdoors.

1. Remain in the vicinity of the ship you’ve abandoned: Rescuers answering an SOS message have the best chance of finding you if you stay close to your starting coordinate. Construct a makeshift sea anchor by tying a rope around the handle of a bucket or a roll of expandable clothing and secure the other end of the rope to the raft. Put the anchor in the water on the windward side to keep the front of the boat facing into the wind, making the raft less likely to capsize and minimizing the amount of drift caused by wind.

2. Use the wind to your advantage: If you were not able to issue a distress call before you abandoned ship and you do not believe that help is on the way, improvise a sail. Tie two paddles securely to opposite sides of the raft, with the handles facing down. Stretch a sheet or poncho between the upright paddles. Use a third paddle as a rudder.

3. Read the clouds for signs of land: Dense, puffy clouds with a flat bottom (cumulus clouds) in an otherwise clear sky usually form over land. White, fluffy clouds indicate good weather. A darker color spells rain. A greenish tint is known as “lagoon glare,” which results from sunlight reflecting off shallow water, where it may be easiest to catch fish.

4. Let animals be your guide: Seals in water are a guarantee that land is nearby, since they rarely venture far from shore. Single sea birds often leave land far behind, but flocks of birds are almost never more than 60 miles from the shore. They fly out to sea in the morning and return in the late afternoon to roost. Base your direction of travel on the time of day, heading in the opposite direction of the birds flight in the morning and following them to shore in the evening.

Be Aware:

– Do not drink saltwater directly from the ocean, no matter how thirsty you feel. Drink as much rain water as you can to remain hydrated, especially when your freshwater supply is limited.

– Sunburn is a serious concern whilst afloat in the sea. If your life raft does not already have a roof, rig one using whatever material you have available and cover all exposed skin. Your face and neck are especially vulnerable and in need of protection.

– If you see sharks in the water near you, remain still and quiet. Do not put any body parts or equipment in the water. If you have a fish on the line when you spot a shark, let the fish go. Do not gut fish into the water when sharks are near.